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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-08-01

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Wednesday, 1 August 2012 Issue No: 4136

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM chairs meeting on privatisations, exploitation of state propetry
  • [02] Coalition leaders to meet again on Wednesday
  • [03] PM meets with Troika representatives
  • [04] Venizelos: 10-point strategic framework
  • [05] Tripras on ATEbank; Gov't reaction
  • [06] ND lashes out at SYRIZA over ATEbank takeover
  • [07] Parliament committee passes bill on higher education tabled as urgent
  • [08] Police protection for politicians, public figures to be drastically reduced
  • [09] Extending term of national service 'on hold', defence minister says
  • [10] Health minister and Athens mayor discuss health, drug abuse issues
  • [11] Civil servant honored for outstanding performance
  • [12] Alpha Bank confirms offer for Emporiki purchase, denies done deal
  • [13] Piraeus Bank ends process to sell subsidiary in Egypt
  • [14] Labour minister invites social partners to dialogue
  • [15] State cash reserves at crucial point
  • [16] Air transport strategy discussed by tourism and development ministers
  • [17] Development Minister Hatzidakis met with the mayor of Thessaloniki
  • [18] High ferry fares make sea cruises a cheaper option for visiting islands, travel agents report
  • [19] Passenger traffic in Greek ports down 12.3 pct in Q4 2011
  • [20] US Ambassador Smith meets with local authorities in Hania, on the island of Crete
  • [21] Retail sales volume down 9.4 pct in May
  • [22] Greek stocks end lower
  • [23] Greek bond market closing report
  • [24] ADEX closing report
  • [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [26] Greece's legally resident population less than 10 million, 2011 census data reveals
  • [27] Scientists at Grevena Nat. History Museum identify fossilised baby mastodon tusk
  • [28] Rethymno fire chief charges 'clear acts of arson'
  • [29] Three foreign nationals arrested for abduction of Russian family in Halkidiki
  • [30] Man found dead in Stavroupoli, foul play suspected
  • [31] Turkish fisherman caught a piranha in Evros River
  • [32] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] PM chairs meeting on privatisations, exploitation of state propetry

    Prime minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday chaired a meeting on the programme for privatisations and the exploitation of state property.

    No statements were made after the meeting, which was attended by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis, Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) president Takis Athanassopoulos and CEO Yiannis Emiris.

    Speaking on a Tuesday morning television programme on SKAI, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou indicated that the measures included in Greece's new economic programme will be ready to be announced within August.

    Kedikoglou underlined that the messages from Europe were clear, such shown by the statements of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso during his visit to Greece.

    "He truly supports our efforts and he told us clearly. We must regain our credibility. We must appear consistent," the spokesman stressed, noting that if Greece tried to begin negotiations while balking at half the things that had already been agreed, this would not bode well for further talks.

    Concerning the talks underway between the three party leaders in the coalition government, Kedikoglou noted that the prime minister and the other two party leaders in the coalition had decided to put the country's needs first.

    "The needs of the country demands that we keep to this course, which is the only one that allows us to remain in Europe, to remain in developments at a definitive period for Europe. Greece must not find itself excluded," he emphasised.

    While the decisions were difficult, all sides were in agreement on the need to complete a difficult mission and recognised the fact that the measures amounting to 11.5 billion euro must be found now, in order for Greece to regain its credibility, Kedikoglou noted.

    He also pointed out that making the cuts would give Greece access to many times that amount, if only through the recapitalisation of the banks that the government hopes will then be able to increase liquidity to small and medium-sized businesses in order to fight unemployment.

    "Consequently, it is a very complex issue and it is certain that the two leader and the prime minister will try to find the optimum solution," he added.

    [02] Coalition leaders to meet again on Wednesday

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the party leaders supporting the coalition government will have another meeting on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. to discuss the measures required by Greece's creditors, the government said on Tuesday.

    The announcement stressed that the meeting was an initiative of the prime minister. Earlier, PASOK party sources said that the party's leader Evangelos Venizelos had requested that the premier bring forward the next meeting of the coalition leaders, whose date had not yet been decided, in the light of developments during his meeting with European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund (IMF) troika inspectors on Tuesday afternoon.

    Sources within PASOK said that Venizelos had raised the issue of the political framework concerning Greece's relations with its institutional partners and had 'spoken directly' in talks with troika officials . They said that Venizelos would inform the other two coalition leaders on the issues during the meeting on Wednesday.

    According to the same sources, Venizelos presented to troika inspectors the 10 points he had outlined earlier at his party's Parliamentary group, making it clear that the measures that Greece's institutional partners were demanding were not possible to take.

    Troika representatives stated that they had no authority to discuss anything apart from the implementation of measures amounting to 11.5 billion euro in spending cuts and that if Greece wishes to discuss other issues, it must do this on a political level.

    [03] PM meets with Troika representatives

    Prime minister Antonis Samaras met Tuesday morning with the representatives of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) representatives for clarifications on certain economic matters.

    The meeting was also attended by finance minister Yannis Stournaras and alternate minister Christos Staikouras.

    No statements were made after the meeting.

    [04] Venizelos: 10-point strategic framework

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said that his party supports the three-party coalition government for a full 4-year term, and outlined the 10 proposals for a strategic framework that he presented at Monday evening's meeting of the three party leaders, in an address to the party's parliamentary group on Tuesday.

    Venizelos, who was to meet later with the Troika, said PASOK supports the government, for which it wants a four-year horizon. "We have a large share of the responsibility and must respect the conditions of the programme convergence (of the three parties" , noting that the people sent, in the recent general elections, the message that there could be no more across-the-board cuts in salaries and pensions nor more measures that deepen the recession.

    Venizelos described his 10-point proposal as a plan for an integrated national strategy "which has its difficulties, but the effort must be made, backing the prime minister and his ministers".

    The 10 points:

    1) There is need for immediate actions by Greece in the period of August-September that will concern high-level contacts with the leaders of the EU member states and also the institutional partners (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund), and also for shielding the domestic front. The national negotiating team must be formed and the opposition called on to contribute to the effort. Venizelos said it would be a "mistake" and "insult to the country" for it to be said that it has been inert with respect to the structural changes, adding that the changes effected from 2010 to the present are "unprecedented" and the reproduction of such stereotypes at Greece's expense must stop.

    2) The country must manifest its strong determination to promote the structural changes, and noted the 77 obstacles pinpointed by the Fund for privatizations, which he stressed need to be immediately eliminated through legislation.

    3) The end fiscal target must immediately be confirmed, so that from a deficit of 11.5 billion euros we will go to a primary surplus, and a 2.6 percent growth rate must be achieved.

    4) The fiscal adjustment period needs to be extended to 2016.

    5) It is necessary to draft an updated programme for the period 2012-2016, so that the 2012 budget may be closed and a draft budget drawn up for 2013, which should be tabled in parliament in early October.

    6) A proposal should be drawn up for full itemization of the programme for 2012-2014, without across-the-board cuts that affect small and medium incomes.

    7) Improvement of the macroeconomic climate which, if improved, will enable an easier implementation of the second stage of fiscal adjustment in 2014-2016.

    8) Immediate and tangible measures must be taken to increase unemployment in tandem with a reduction of the cost of money, as well as measures to control prices.

    9) Measures must be taken to reinforce social cohesion.

    10) The international communications framework that is negative towards Greece must change, in cooperation with the partners.

    [05] Tripras on ATEbank; Gov't reaction

    Main opposition SYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday his party would annul the transfer of ATEbank healthy assets to Piraeus Bank in case it comes to power.

    "The merger of ATEbank with Piraeus Bank is temporary and Syriza committs itself to annul it, in case it assumes the country's governance," Tsipras told supporters in the northern city of Katerini.

    Gov't reaction

    Responding, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou accused Tsipras of "political schizophrenia without limits", noting that SYRIZA and its leader on one hand they promote with all their forces the lobby that wants Greece out of the eurozone and on the other hand they swear in the name of Greece's european course.

    [06] ND lashes out at SYRIZA over ATEbank takeover

    New Democracy (ND) on Tuesday lashed out at main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras for his intervention regarding the government's decision to allow Piraeus Bank to take over the healthy assets of ATEbank.

    Referring to Tsipras' address to members of his party, an ND statement underlined that "SYRIZA and the rest of the drachma enthusiasts are the only ones in the world who have not realized that the country needs a strong banking system and reforms," adding that "if they lived on another planet they could have won a Nobel for economics."

    SYRIZA parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday expressed indignation over the ATEbank transfer and stressed that this was "a secretly performed sell off and looting of public resources, a violation of fundamental parliamentary procedures and a major scandal".

    He voiced strong opposition to the government's policy, stressing that "we are looking at a major scandal which shows that those who really govern the country are not the three political party leaders backing the government but a group of bankrupt bankers who make the crucial decisions, keep their banks alive with ready public money and make decisions that provoke the Greek people."

    He stated that his party will block the completion of this process and the sell off of profit-making cooperative enterprises such as, "Dodoni" Agricultural Dairy Industry of Epirus S.A. and the Hellenic Sugar Industry S.A. expressing optimism that "very soon this struggle will be victorious".

    [07] Parliament committee passes bill on higher education tabled as urgent

    Parliament's Committee for Educational Affairs on Tuesday passed a draft bill modifying the framework law on higher education prepared by the former education minister Anna Diamantopoulou with the support of New Democracy and Democratic Left (Dem.Ar) party MPs, as well as PASOK MP Dimitris Kremastinos. Earlier, the committee has approved the reading of the draft bill as urgent, with the support of main opposition Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA).

    The PASOK party as a whole has declined to adopt a position on the changes until the bill goes before the Parliament plenum on Wednesday.

    The University rectors Conference held in Lavrio on Tuesday issued a unanimous resolution that criticised the draft bill tabled by the education ministry, however, saying that the changes made do not address the fundamental issues that remain unresolved.

    Among the problems they say remain are that of giving decisive administrative and academic authorities to the boards of academic institutions, the extremely tight deadlines of electoral procedures, the pre-selection by the board of candidates for single-person university bodies and securing public funding. The legal framework also retains measures that of doubtful constitutional legality.

    Another critic was former PASOK minister Yiannis Ragoussis, who said the changes to the legislative framework before this had been implemented was a backward slide to the "dark side of the post-junta democracy" that allowed "small oligarchies to dominate at the expense of the people".

    [08] Police protection for politicians, public figures to be drastically reduced

    Parliament building security will be undertaken by a private company, while the number of police officers who are currently used to guard political and other public figures will be drastically reduced, it was announced on Tuesday.

    According to a decision by Public Order and Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Dendias and a relevant report by a Greek Police (ELAS) special committee, roughly 1,000 police officers, 100 patrol cars and 60 motorcycles will return to regular duties. The changes will be implemented after the signing of a relevant presidential decree.

    The decision provides that police protection for public figures will be optional and not mandatory based on the recommendations of a special committee. Only the President of the Republic and the prime minister will be entitled to mandatory police protection.

    The number of police officers serving in the security of the prime minister will be reduced by 25, while those guarding the leader of the main opposition party will be reduced by 20.

    Similar reductions will be in effect in the number of police officers serving in the security of leaders of political parties represented in parliament, as well as, in the security of government ministers, political party offices and television stations. Also, there will be no police escorts for MPs, MEPs, regional governors and mayors.

    Former government ministers will have police protection for 2 months instead of 6 after their term in office ends.

    Any security requests will be assessed by a special committee.

    Private individuals with annual income of more than 100,000 euros, who request police protection and receive it, will have to pay the monthly salary of the police officer who will assume bodyguard duties. If their annual income is under 100,000 euros, police protection will be approved for a limited time that could be renewed every three months if it is deemed necessary.

    [09] Extending term of national service 'on hold', defence minister says

    National Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos, in statements made on Tuesday, announced that any move to extend the term of mandatory military service in Greece has been put on hold for the present. The minister indicated that the issue needed careful consideration, especially in relation to its social impact. He also repeated there would be no further pay cuts for those working in the military.

    Panagiotopoulos and Deputy Defence Minister Panagiotis Karambelas were attending ceremonies for the handover of the 1st Army in Larisa and the Hellenic Tactical Airforce command to its new leadership.

    The minister noted that on taking over the political leadership of the ministry, he had found unanimous recommendations by the military chiefs of staff calling for an increase in the term of national service. He clarified, however, that the ministry was not prepared to take action on the issue at present.

    "The issue of the national service term has massive social repercussions and concerns our youth, the most sensitive part of the Greek population, which has suffered great ills from the economic crisis, including unemployment. Frivolous handling of such issues by the State, therefore, which may have a dramatic impact on the psychology of young people and without a prior study of all the social data and every other social dimension of the issue, every such action is contraindicated in my opinion," he said.

    He also repeated that there could be no further pay cuts to those serving in the armed forces, saying that equivalent funds had been found by cutting back on the ministry budget in other areas without affecting the operational readiness of the armed forces.

    [10] Health minister and Athens mayor discuss health, drug abuse issues

    Health Minister Andreas Lykourentzos and Athens Mayor George Kaminis held a meeting on Tuesday that focused on issues of public health and hygiene, including the operation of municipal surgeries and problems linked to drug abuse and its repercussions on society.

    After the meeting, Lykourentzos said they agreed to once again set up a contact group between the municipality and the ministry, as per a memorandum signed in the past, to work together in order to set the priorities and jointly provide solutions to the problems.

    Questioned about overtime shift in hospitals on emergency duty, the minister noted that hospital governors had instructions on how to operate within the limits of the finances now at their disposal and were in a position to decide which specialist doctors were necessary and which were not.

    [11] Civil servant honored for outstanding performance

    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday honored a high ranking civil servant at the international and community issues office of the government general secretariat for outstanding performance far beyond her duties that has benefited greatly the Greek state.

    Eleni Martsoukou was appointed head of the international and community issues office in 2010 and since then she contributed to the reduction of the European Law incorporation deficit from 2.4 pct to 0.5 pct, thus preventing the payment of fines between 25,535,600 euros and 550,171, 440 euros through the successful handling of 117 relevant cases by her office.

    Financial News

    [12] Alpha Bank confirms offer for Emporiki purchase, denies done deal

    Alpha Bank on Tuesday confirmed that it has filed an offer to Credit Agricole for the buy-out of Emporiki Bank, but denied press reports that a deal has been agreed.

    In a letter to the Capital Markets Commission in reply to a relevant query by the Commission, Alpha Bank explains that it has "filed an offer with Credit Agricole for the purchase of shares representing the entire share capital of Emporiki Bank".

    "It is the Bank's view that, by virtue of its filed offer, limited only use of public funds shall be made towards transaction consummation, it is in line with the directions of the authorities and, at the same time, contributes to the reliable restructuring of the Greek banking system," Alpha said

    [13] Piraeus Bank ends process to sell subsidiary in Egypt

    Piraeus Bank on Tuesday said it was terminating a process to sell its subsidiary in Egypt, Piraeus Bank Egypt. The Greek bank said it did not intend to seek any bids for its Egyptian subsidiary in the future and will focus on fully supporting the group' s banking services in the country.

    [14] Labour minister invites social partners to dialogue

    Labour Minister Ioannis Vroutsis addressed a letter to social partners inviting them to continue and organize the social dialogue launched three weeks ago, it was announced on Tuesday.

    In the letter addressed to the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE), the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV), the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals Craftsmen and Merchants (GSEVEE) and the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce (ESEE), Vroutsis stressed that the government entered the dialogue with specific positions and proposals.

    According to the labour minister, the government focuses on actions against unemployment, undeclared labour, contribution evasion and red tape, as well as on issues concerning collective labour contracts, the minimum wage and social services.

    [15] State cash reserves at crucial point

    State coffers' cash reserves at a crucial point, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said on Tuesday, affected by a delay in the disbursement of a loan tranche by the troika, although he stressed that Eurogroup' s president Jean-Claude Juncker has pledged that a solution will be find on the issue.

    In a television interview, Staikouras said the government was working with responsibility to agree on an 11.5 billion euros spending cuts package which must be as socially fair as possible. He reiterated a government's pledge that the new measures will not hurt low wage earners and low pensioners and stressed that the goal was to agree on a package which could bring recovery and growth. "By September we must have agreed on some structural changes, on a new mid-term program, on next year's state budget and to have reached an agreement with the troika," Staikouras.

    He added that a deal to transfer ATEbank's healthy assets to Piraeus Bank was beneficial for the Greek state.

    [16] Air transport strategy discussed by tourism and development ministers

    The drawing up of a comprehensive air transport strategy dominated the meeting between Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni and Development, Competitiveness, Transport, Infrastructure & Networks Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Tuesday.

    After the meeting, Kefalogianni underlined that air transport is an important tool in the development of the tourism sector and that it is being handled as a priority.

    She underlined that regional airports will have to be updated allowing Greece to become a competitive tourism destination, adding that Athens' airport recorded the largest drop in tourist arrivals this year.

    On his part, Hatzidakis underlined that air transport is of major importance for Greece and is high on the government's agenda. He stated that air transport figures will soon be presented by the government, adding that the economic crisis calls for quick reactions.

    The meeting was attended by Aegean Airlines vice-president Eftichis Vasilakis, Olympic Air Director Giorgos Koulouris, and Athens-Attica Hotels Association president Alexandros Vasilikos.

    [17] Development Minister Hatzidakis met with the mayor of Thessaloniki

    Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Tuesday received Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris.

    The issues raised by the mayor of the second largest city in the country concerned the reduction of the Thessaloniki Airport tax, the construction of a tram route funded by state and private investors, and the introduction of seaplane and coastal shipping routes.

    The minister stated that all issues raised will be examined clarifying that an institutional framework regulating the seaplane services market is already under preparation.

    [18] High ferry fares make sea cruises a cheaper option for visiting islands, travel agents report

    High prices on ferry lines have made sea cruises a cheaper option for many families holidaying in Greece, travel agents reported on Tuesday.

    Despite the fact that most Greeks have seen their income significantly reduced in the last year, ferry lines have not responded by cutting the price of ferry fares and are trying to cope with the lack of passengers by reducing the number of journeys and the speed of ships.

    Travel agencies in Piraeus note that the ferry fares for a family of four with grown children, a car and a cabin on board cost as much as a four-day cruise on Greek islands in the low season. Indicatively, the return fare to the Aegean island of Mytilene will cost 726 euro, for Hios it costs 527 euro and to Iraklio, Crete 471 euro. The journey to the popular island of Santorini can set a family back by 406 euro, even without a cabin.

    The cost of a four-day cruise after August 15 to Mykonos, Kusadasi, Patmos and Santorini for the same family will be 654 euro with full board, entertainment, drinks and other extras. Estimated cost of a week-long holiday in Santorini for a family of four are a minimum of 1,810 euro for travel, room and board and entertainment while an equivalent eight-day cruise from Piraeus will cost 1,702 euro in the high season and 1,630 euro in a low season.

    [19] Passenger traffic in Greek ports down 12.3 pct in Q4 2011

    Passenger traffic in Greek ports fell 12.3 pct in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared with the corresponding period in 2010, after a 2.4 pct decline recorded in the previous 12-month period, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, also said that cargo traffic in Greek ports eased 1.5 pct in the fourth quarter of 2011, after a 7.0 pct increase recorded in the previous 12-month period.

    [20] US Ambassador Smith meets with local authorities in Hania, on the island of Crete

    The potential for cooperation between the south Aegean island of Crete and the United States for the purpose of attracting more investments to the island, the promotion of Cretan farm products to the US market and the sea cruise tourism sector, dominated a meeting on Tuesday between US ambassador to Athens Daniel Smith and local authorities.

    The US ambassador, currently on a visit to Hania, stressed that he will consider the proposals expressed seeking to boost the tourism flow from the United States and promote Cretan products to the US market.

    Hania Deputy Regional Governor Apostolos Voulgarakis received the US ambassador at his office and referred to the hard times the country is going through, underlining the need for cooperation that will help Greece exit the crisis.

    Welcoming him at the town hall, Hania Mayor Manolis Skoulakis underlined that the city is a safe destination for foreign tourists and offers high-level services to its visitors. He also referred to the further development of the sea cruise tourism sector and the major role that can be played by the Port of Souda.

    [21] Retail sales volume down 9.4 pct in May

    Greece' s retail turnover index  excluding fuel - fell 8.8 pct in May, compared with the same month last year, after a decline of 8.7 pct recorded in May 2011, Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Tuesday.

    The statistics service, in a report, said that the retail turnover index - including fuel - dropped 9.2 pct in May.

    The retail sales volume index - excluding fuel - fell 9.4 pct in May, after a 10 pct decline recorded in May 2011, while the index -including fuel - fell 10.3 pct in May 2012.

    [22] Greek stocks end lower

    Greek stocks ended mixed to lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, as investors took profits after Monday's sharp advance. The composite index of the market fell 0.13 pct to end at 598.68 points, off the day's lows of 1.39 pct. The index ended the month with a loss of 2.04 pct. Turnover was an improved 30.673 million euros.

    The Big Cap index eased 0.21 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 3.28 pct lower. The Food (1.77 pct) and Oil (0.54 pct) sectors were the only ones to end higher, while Technology (5.59 pct), Financial Services (5.35 pct) and Telecoms (2.42 pct) suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day.

    Eurobank (6.64 pct), Cyprus Popular Bank (3.45 pct) and Cyprus Bank (2.80 pct) were top gainers among blue chip stocks, while MIG (9.45 pct), Piraeus Bank (7.88 pct) and PPC (6.52 pct) were top losers.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 75 to 47 with another 24 issues unchanged. Yalco (19.17 pct), NEL (18.42 pct), Sciens Holdings (12.58 pct) were top gainers, while Hellenic Postbank (28.72 pct), Hellenic Fish Farms (20 pct) and Pegasus (19.69 pct) were top losers.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Industrials: -1.48%

    Commercial: -2.14%

    Construction: -0.48%

    Oil & Gas: +0.54%

    Personal & Household: -0.93%

    Raw Materials: -1.18%

    Travel & Leisure: -0.14%

    Technology: -5.59%

    Telecoms: -2.42%

    Banks: -0.33%

    Food & Beverages: +1.77%

    Health: -1.05%

    Utilities: -5.68%

    Financial Services: -5.35%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were Alpha Bank, National Bank, OPAP and HBC Coca Cola.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 1.21

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 2.15

    HBC Coca Cola: 14.25

    Hellenic Petroleum: 5.32

    National Bank of Greece: 1.27

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 0.68

    OPAP: 4.90

    OTE: 2.02

    Bank of Piraeus: 0.22

    Titan: 13.00

    [23] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds eased slightly to 24.14 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Tuesday, with the Greek bond yielding 25.42 pct and the German Bund 1.39 pct. There was no turnover in the market.

    In interbank markets, interest rates continued moving lower. The 12-month rate fell to 0.94 pct, the six-month rate eased to 0.67 pct, the three-month rate fell to 0.38 pct and the one-month rate eased to 0.14 pct.

    [24] ADEX closing report

    The September contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at a discount of 1.23 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover remaining a low 6.285 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 1,230 contracts worth 1.323 million euros, with 23,580 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 39,629 contracts worth 4.953 million euros, with investment interest focusing on Alpha Bank's contracts (18,017), followed by National Bank (9,952), Cyprus Bank (907), MIG (670), OTE (2,729), PPC (1,989), OPAP (499), Piraeus Bank (2,792), Cyprus Popular Bank (968), Hellenic Postbank (750) and Eurobank (92).

    [25] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.246

    Pound sterling 0.795

    Danish kroner 7.552

    Swedish kroner 8.484

    Japanese yen 97.47

    Swiss franc 1.219

    Norwegian kroner 7.532

    Canadian dollar 1.249

    Australian dollar 1.185

    General News

    [26] Greece's legally resident population less than 10 million, 2011 census data reveals

    The legally resident population of Greece fell beneath 10 million in 2011, according to the results of the 2011 census announced by the Hellenic Statistical Authority on Tuesday. Based on the number of registered inhabitants in each municipality in the country, the number of legal residents is 9,903,268 people. The census was carried out between May 10-24 2011 with May 9 as the reference date.

    Based on temporary figures released by ELSTAT on July 22, 2011 shortly after the completion of the census, the total population of the country was 10,787,690 individuals, though European Union estimates of the Greek population on January 1, 2011 were significantly higher at 11,329,600 individuals - a difference partly attributed to the reluctance of illegal migrants and citizens fearful of crime to open their doors to census takers.

    The biggest concentration of population is in the Attic basin, with 750,982 people living in the Central Sector of Athens alone, while the number of inhabitants registered at the Athens municipality rolls are 467,108 people. A further 446,721 are resident in the North Sector, 386,953 in the West Sector and 394,191 in the South Sector.

    The Eastern Attica regional unit has a population of 358,576 and that of Western Attica has a population of 141,051, while the Piraeus regional unit has a population of 394,454 and the Thessaloniki regional unit has a population of 878,194 individuals, of which 269,137 live within the Thessaloniki municipality.

    ELSTAT said that the record of the legal population was based on the replies given by Greek citizens in the census concerning which municipality they are registered in. They include Greek nationals in the military and in diplomatic missions abroad, as well as members of their families permanently resident abroad.

    The statistical authority noted that the data from the census was processed using the most modern methods and technologies to ensure stricter quality control than that for any previous census. It notes, however, that the results are not fully comparable with those of any previous census since the method used diverged significantly.

    [27] Scientists at Grevena Nat. History Museum identify fossilised baby mastodon tusk

    The fossilised tusk of a newborn mastodon of the species Mammut borsoni has been identified by a scientist working with the Museum of Natural History at Milia, Grevena. Announcing the find on Tuesday, the scientist said that this was the first discovery of such a unique fossil from such a young mastodon, which must have died about two months after its birth.

    The find is expected to shed new light on the study concerning the development and way of life of mastodons, which were found in the Grevena area about three million years ago. It has been put on display at the museum next to the largest tusks in the world measuring 4.39 metres and 5.02 metres, found in 1997 and 2007, respectively.

    [28] Rethymno fire chief charges 'clear acts of arson'

    The fire brigade chief in Rethymno, on the island of Crete, said Tuesday that the fires that ravaged the prefecture over the past few days were "clear acts of arson" by a specific individual in the wider area of southern Rethymno.

    Fire chief George Markoulakis told AMNA that the investigations branch of the local fire department had "strong evidence" of an arsonist, whose identity has not yet been confirmed, adding that a team of crime investigators was due from Athens to help the investigation. He said the evidence from all the fires point to the same individual.

    Meanwhile, all the fires in Rethymno have been extinguished as of Tuesday, but firefighters remained on stand-by, mainly in Kerames and Aghios Vassilios, in fear of rekindlings.

    The multi-front blaze, which broke out Saturday noon in Agallianou and Kerames, burned more some 2,500-4,000 acres of forest, olive groves and farmland before being put out by strong firefighting teams from all over Crete and reinforcements from Athens assisted by several water-dropping planes and helicopters.

    Firefighters told AMNA it was very suspicious that the area has been hit six times by wildfires between last summer and this past Saturday.

    [29] Three foreign nationals arrested for abduction of Russian family in Halkidiki

    Two Russian nationals aged 37 and 41 and a 35-year-old man from Kazakhstan have been arrested in Halkidiki for the abduction for ransom of a three-member Russian family in Nea Skioni, police said on Tuesday.

    Police said the abductors had demanded that the family -- a 51-year-old man, his 43-year-old wife and their 17-year-old son -- pay 5 million euros ransom to be released.

    The investigation turned up that the 41-year-old detainee picked up the 51-year-old Russian from Macedonia Airport on July 27 to take him to a hotel in Nea Moudania, but instead drove him to a house in Nea Skioni where he drugged him with sleeping pills in his coffee and water and then with an injection.

    On that same afternoon, the 41-year-old convinced the abductee's wife and son, who were already in Halkidiki, to leave follow him from their hotel to the same house the father was being held captive, and offered the juice laced with sleeping pills and afterwards also gave them injections.

    The following day the 41-year-old demanded that the father pay 5 million euros in order to release the family. Earlier he had removed 3,000 euros in cash from the father's wallet, three cell phones and the man's credit cards, forcing him to reveal the pin number for one of the cards.

    The family took advantage of an opportunity that arose when the 41-year-old was away and the carelessness of the 35-year-old guarding them and escaped, alerting local police, who succeeded in locating and arresting the three suspects on July 29.

    Police found and confiscated five cell phones, 205 euros, 61,300 (1,555 euros) and a large quantity of medicinal substances in liquid and solid (pills) form from the 41-year-old mastermind of the abduction.

    Also, an airline employee found personal documents and 100,000 rubles (2,537 euros) in cash in personal belongings of the victim left behind at the airport.

    [30] Man found dead in Stavroupoli, foul play suspected

    A 58-year-old Greek man was found dead on a bench in the Stavroupolis area on Tuesday, with signs of strangulation by a noose on his neck. A coroner was called in by police to investigate the scene and an investigation launched by the Thessaloniki Security Police Crimes Against Life and Personal Liberty Department.

    [31] Turkish fisherman caught a piranha in Evros River

    ANKARA (AMNA / A. Ambatzis)

    An amateur fisherman on the Turkish side of the Evros River insists that he has caught a 45-centimeters-long piranha, according to the Turkish news agency Anadolu.

    He told the news agency that this is the first time he has caught such a fish in the 20 years he has been fishing in Evros and underlined that it was probably released into the river from a private aquarium.

    The fisherman called on the authorities to take measures, stressing that this could be the end of the fishery in Evros, while the presence of the specific fish could be a danger to people as well.

    The piranha (also known as the caribe) is a ferocious, schooling, fresh-water fish, a native to warm lowland streams and lakes in South America.

    [32] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The final stretch to the finalization of the package of austerity measures for 11.5 billion euro in state spending cuts over the next two years and the imminent changes to the social security system, as well as developments in the

    Greek banking system were the main front-page items in Athens' dailies on Tuesday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "0.25 percent reduction in interest rates for 710,000 loans from National Bank (NBG)".

    AVGHI: "Shock measures, with theatrics".

    AVRIANI: "The Memorandum is finito, says SEB president Dimitris Daskalopoulos".

    DIMOKRATIA: "'Dragons' on the internet - Parents beware for your children".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Tourism destinations unprotected from crime".

    ELLADA: "Incapable of making decisions, they're leading us to bankruptcy".

    ESTIA: "The 'engine' of the economy".

    ETHNOS: "Countdown to the harsh package".

    IMERISSIA: "Major deal from Alpha Bank - Acquisition of Emporiki Bank - Qatar in the new group".

    KATHIMERINI: "Decisive stance by Samaras".

    LOGOS: "Retirements 'freezing' for 2 years".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Harsh measures of cuts with the 'perfect mix' of policy".

    NIKI: "Reduce your mortgage loan installment by half".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Organisation, counter-attack against the new barbarous measures".

    TA NEA: Samaras, Venizelos, Kouvelis in exercise of balance for the measures".

    VRADYNI: "Increase of retirement age and new cutbacks in lump-sum retirement benefit".

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